In beauty, there is no category more timeless—or quintessential—than lipstick. As an enduring symbol of power and femininity, the transformative swipe of classic lipstick is never to be underestimated. Over the decades, brands have met perennial demand with a dizzying menagerie of offerings, leaving no color, undertone, or finish unturned. But despite the scale of options, there are those strikingly universal shades that women keep coming back to. From true reds to nuanced nudes, here, a dozen classic lipstick shades with that certain something loyal masses can’t get enough of.
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire & Ice
In 1952, Revlon launched its Fire & Ice ad campaign, starring Vogue cover girl Dorian Leigh, and caused a stir with its kitschy quiz supplement designed to decide if one was, in fact, suited to this tried-and-true bold red.
NARS Lipstick in Dolce Vita
Inspired by the 1960 Italian drama La Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg, this dusty rose strikes a sophisticated balance between retro and modern pale-pink lips.
Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey
Making a hyper-gothic wash of color both flattering and accessible, the secret behind this deep berry hue is its sheer, glossy, and balm-like texture.
Dior Rouge Lipstick in 999 Matte
In 1953, Christian Dior created two “perfect red” lipsticks for the runway, “9” and “99,” and more than half a century later, this rich red is the gorgeous amalgam of the two.
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk
A single slick of this matte nude pink will enhance the natural color of your lips to bespoke effect, while a few more layers builds to a more dramatic true mauve for a dose of understated glamour.
MAC Red Lipstick in Ruby Woo
The coolest of cool reds, this iconic shade is flattering on virtually everyone, with subtle blue undertones that brighten teeth and the whites of the eyes in one fell swoop.
L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lipcolour in Fairest Nude
With its unmistakable vanilla scent, this creamy pinky-taupe nude goes on sheer and supplies a boost of radiance to a wide variety of complexions.
Tom Ford Lip Color in Bruised Plum
This shade is a darker-than-dark plum in the tube, but when you swipe on the shiny, semi-opaque formula, it reads more like a juicy deep fuchsia that you can layer on to your desired opacity.
NARS Lipstick in Schiap
Named after Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who made shocking pink her signature color, this electric fuchsia shade is just as head-swiveling as her Surrealist designs.
Giorgio Armani Beauty Rouge D’Armani Matte Lipstick in 400
Known as the “Armani Red,” this rich, highly pigmented crimson strikes a perfect balance between cool and warm, and is a definitive classic for the Old Hollywood look.
Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture in #19 Fuchsia Pink
In 1979, Yves Saint Laurent unveiled Rouge Pur Lipstick No. 19, a blue-toned dark fuchsia that still remains a best-seller thanks to its vivid pink pigments and stunning satin finish.
Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Brown
It was in 1991 that makeup legend Bobbi Brown’s debut line of lipsticks hit the Bergdorf Goodman counters. Of all the shades, her Lip Color in pink-tinged Brown caused the biggest sensation, helping to usher in the ’90s nude lip look still being referenced today.